At this point most pundits have just taken it as a given that the presidential election won’t be called on election night one way or the other. Some cable news personalities are now openly salivating over the prospect of “election night” lasting for days. But here’s the thing.
People are expecting the election results to drag on for days for two reasons. First, the unusually high number of mail-in votes could result in delayed results. Second, Donald Trump is expected to try to contest the results. But elections only take a long time to call when they’re fairly close to begin with. Some states will have their mail-in ballots counted by election day. Other states may have such an obvious gap in same-day voting that the TV network experts will be able to call those states even before the mail-in vote counting is complete.
Charlie Cook of the respected Cook Political Report wrote an article last night titled “Don’t expect a contested election.” The upshot is that he expects Joe Biden to win by a wide enough margin that the results will be unmistakable, and Trump won’t even have an angle for challenging them. There is a good chance that he’s right about this; the Cook Political Report is one of the best at calling results.
It got me thinking that if Joe Biden wins by a large enough margin, particularly in key swing states, we might see the major networks go ahead and call the election on election night. That would be the ultimate “surprise” in comparison to how the pundits have been framing election night. I’m not saying it’s going to happen. I’m just saying I won’t be surprised if it does. In any case, if you want to increase the odds of that happening, use these final few days to push as many people to vote as you can.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report